CSM Degree Show Two saw graduating students from the design subjects exhibit their work to thousands of visitors. Whilst many used digital technologies in the execution of their projects this article concentrates on those who explored technologies from a critical perspective.
Questions relating to the changing techno-cultural landscape, as well as those relating to privacy, identity or addiction were tackled, not to mention digital working environment exploration by MA Innovation Management.
Sarah Kante takes a look at some of the work exhibited during the Degree Show.
How to cope with the changing culture brought about by the digital?
Our society is being transformed by new technologies and the omnipresence of code. Not only is our culture affected, the roles of design practitioners have are evolving. Timothy Robert Klofski (MA Communication Design) explores who the new designer-maker is through Face of Code.
“Our digital ontologies are in constant flux. Today coding is brought into design processes, breaking pre-defined, hard-coded wysiwyg (what-you-see-is-what-you-get) environments and making computational and generative design a major part of the design practice.
In my interactive letter ‘The Face of Code’ I am addressing the need for better software literacy within the field of design, reflecting upon my personal journey of learning code as a visual designer. Illustrating two clashing communities, art/design and programming/open-source, as they learn from and teach each other new ways in order to maintain their agency.
Throughout the last two years, on the MA, my perspective on what the communication design practice can entail has been completely transformed. Besides finding meaningful design responses in respect to the relationships between audience, content, and context, it is even more about allowing diversity.
Today’s graphic designers can be independent multidisciplinary designers: digitals, makers, creators, crafters or they can be the moving hand of a program they have little creative control over personally.”
Whilst the designer is increasingly being pulled towards a multidisciplinary role, its media are also evolving. The question of print versus digital has been extensively discussed. Julia Stubenböck (MA Communication Design) attempts to understand how print practices are influenced by the digital with Reconsidering Print.
“The digitalisation of the book has had deep implications for print design. It casts doubts on the relevance of print design in the digital age – an issue that concerns many designers working with print today.
”This work is an attempt to understand social and cultural change within the context of evolving technology. It examines how the shift to digital informs and influences print design practice, and at the same time, invites viewers to question and reconsider the role of contemporary print design. My intention is to open up critical thinking and discussion about the function of print design in an increasingly digital world.
The paper object is build after an Origami model by Yami Yamauchi. Through deeper engagement with this flexible sculpture new bits of information can be revealed. Different perspectives allow different associations, thereby the viewer is invited to explore the structure in various ways and change its appearance.
The designer and the discipline are being transformed by digital technologies, but so is the content we consume. The way we access information has changed, and so does the information itself. Ana Laya (MA Innovation Management), with Moving Information, tries to understand the way we “absorb and generate culture” through narratives in the digital sphere.
“As we navigate form a media world of analogue scarcity to one of digital abundance, I wanted to understand how the latest technology-driven / fast-pace changes have transformed the way we absorb and generate culture; the meanings and values of narratives, and explore the challenges that emerge from these changes, as well as the exciting opportunities that can be successfully exploited by innovation managers interested in the world of media, marketing and branding.
Understanding cultural insights and the instrumental importance of information (in any of its forms: narrative, texts, visual resources, design, photography) as a transformational force is key for any company or individual looking to generate attention, real engagement, and eventually drive profitable consumer action.
The emergence of this narrative-driven marketing trend is not only a great opening to connect with consumers in a more meaningful way, but to inspire significant changes, along with the creation of a culture of innovation.”
The problem of privacy in a digital culture
At the core of digital technologies is data. All that is online is nothing more than data stored in remote data centres as far removed from us as possible, theoretically, if not always physically. Nathalie Jerming – Havill (BA Product Design) not only brings our data back to our home, making us connected to the trail of information we leave every time we are “connected”, she also comments on how the data is used by companies and organisations with access to it.
‘Bug’ is a critical commentary of the data collecting ubiquitous computing which is increasingly being embedded into our lives, both deliberately and inadvertently. Proposed as an independent entity within your home, the ‘Bug’ accumulates and categorises personal data from your connected devices, which it then uses to make audio predictions about your future. These predictions are a commentary on how companies and organisations such as insurance companies or shops use big data to categorise people, predicting future illness, marital status or pregnancies. Made to provoke an unpleasant reflection upon the consequences of leaking data and the fading boundaries of the public and private domain, ‘Bug’ is a platform for discussion as to where our technological dependent consumer culture is headed. Will our need for connectivity – which provides us will social actualisation, when and where we want it – end up costing us our privacy and free choice?
The question of privacy was thoroughly explored in Degree Show Two. Once again, surveillance is tackled heads on by Satara Achille (BA Graphic Design) in Becoming The Glitch.
“Communication using digital media is important to my practice. I try to find ways of reanimating debates and create engaging solutions for serious conversations. Creating a piece of work that speaks for the moment is very important to my practice.
Becoming The Glitch is a project birthed from an ongoing debate on CCTV. The average citizen in the UK is recorded 300 times a day with only 3% of crimes being solved using surveillance cameras. I wanted to find an entertaining way of speaking about a serious subject. Becoming The Glitch is an interactive installation that enables the user to glitch out of CCTV footage using a portable green screen.”
Sarah Gold (MA Industrial Design) goes so far as to design an alternative Internet, The Alternet, to protect our privacy and our data.
“People are now aware of the manipulation and profiling made possible by the tsunami of data we all produce when using information technologies. Whilst change I possible, it is futile. The services that constitute the Internet depend on the perpetuation of the information economy, so our data sustains their businesses. With the impending Internet of Things and our growing digital culture, we need to regain control of our privacy, which means regaining control of our data.
The Alternet is the kernel of regaining privacy in an era of global surveillance. It is a fairtrade, radically reinterpreted Internet structure that provides data ownership through straightforward data licenses. It gives individuals the choice to decide if they share their data and how their data is used. There are no broadband fees, ISP, or convoluted terms of service. Users become participants as the Alternet is established and stewarded by the Alternrt Cooperative, its users. In this way, the Alternet differentiates itself from the Inetrnet and Darknets, because it is a digital commons – a civic alternative.”
Despite the potential unease at the lack of privacy brought about by the Internet, we rely upon and get addicted to digital technologies vey easily, and at an increasing rate.
Addiction to digital technologies
Data is again at the core of Glyphs, a project by Delia Di Filippantonio (MA Industrial Design). But this time, the question is that of our ownership of the data, and memories we generate online.
“By 2020, the average person will own 130 terabytes of personal data. How will we relate to this new kind of possession?
How is it possible to maintain an emotional attachment to something which is hidden and fragmented somewhere in our smart devices? This project explores new devices in order to enable curation of digital libraries in the homes of tomorrow. It emphasizes the importance that the digital world is acquiring in our personal memories, suggesting a critical reflection on fast-paced information consumption.
“Glyphs” is a project about edited and curated memories, as opposed to ephemeral, digital noise. It is a software/hardware system that comprises of an app and an interactive object, expressed in three different shapes and customizable in different materials. The object acts as a digital box for data selected through the app. Memories can be accessed only when in proximity with the object. The object aims to be a “reminder”, to engage with the user and suggest a different mindset about digital possessions. “Glyphs” talks about spatial memory, material associations, triggers and the emotional side of non-material belongings.”
The reason I thought Glyphs was about addiction as much as about data and memory is that I see our addiction to digital technologies as a reliance on them for everything: be it making friends, designing, or building memories, and therefore identities. The following projects touch on the subject of addiction more fully, starting with Urban Hermit, by Shane Long Zhong (MA Communication Design).
“This project studies the issue of technology addiction and the subsequent subculture of urban hermits in China who over-rely on technology, and suffer from “iDisorders”. The ‘Urban Hermit’ (UH) app aims to trigger reflection in urban hermits on their over reliance on technology by providing both individual moderation as well as a co-moderating method. It challenges the conventional notion of “connect together” with a notion of “disconnect together’.”
But away from the extreme of the Urban Hermit, we are all, to some extent, addicted to our devices. Rhys Allen (BA Product Design) devised a way to make us realise when we are too connected with Owl, a little device which rocks or leans on its face when its owner “inappropriately uses its devices at home”.
“As we become increasingly dependent and connected to our smart devices we are not always best at mediating our use. Owl is a friendly device to encourage and remind its users of when they are inappropriately using their devices at home based on their own predetermined limits and rules inputted via an app. A friendly character to live in the home Owl demonstrates agitation by rocking and sadness by leaning to face downwards.”
Another BA Product Design student, Ka Hei Ng targets teenagers and the result of addiction to digital devices: a sedentary lifestyle.
“Smartphone adoption among teenagers has been increased substantially. Research shows that teenagers might be increasingly ‘addicted’ to smartphone and it might lead to a sedentary lifestyle as they spend more time on online activities instead of being physically active.
The design approach is to make exercise more fun and encouraged with smartphone. HoloFit is a holographic device that works with its fitness-tracking app. After the data are synced, HoloFit can display them on the LED at the front. Users can then choose to transform them to a visualising and interesting 3D holographic avatar or animation to see the real time progress and predict what are the changes in the future. HoloFit also feature on holographic workout tutorial and an online platform for sharing and support.”
Like Rhys Allen, instead of advocating staying away from devices, Ka Hei Ng’s design integrates technology into a solution that bends the problem to a “healthier” alternative.
Working in a digital space
Finally, a problem that graduating students tried to tackle in the Degree Show Two was that of the digital working space. Laura Lutz (MA Innovation Management) looked at “The third space”, whilst Jonny Jiang (MA Innovation Management) removed the working environment completely in his exploration of work without offices.
The Third Space
“In a world increasingly connected through digital technology, direct human interaction becomes ever more important. The aim of my research was to find out if physical spaces could be joined with digital technology in order to enhance user experience, facilitate network building and increase creative collaboration.
The future challenge for designers and technology developers will be to engineer technology that makes people engage with each other and build useful business networks, especially in an environment that requires constant innovation. Physical “third places” are serving as hubs that facilitate these valuable connections. The bridging of both realms can be most effectively implemented through the use of location-based digital applications.”
Work without offices
“I was interested to research what is called “work without offices”, i.e. the digital infrastructure facilitating team communication, innovation, project and organizational development within organisations; the relations between workspace, people and organisations; and the future of the digital workspace.
Many of the current digital software applications and tools for the work environment lack a holistic approach towards facilitating new patterns of work. There are emerging demands by workers and organisations within our generation that require new digital work environments. The evolution of office design has given us some indication that there will be a new era of digital space for work in the future. For companies with remote workers, it is a matter to be reflected within the organization’s management. Remote working is a complex issue that needs a good understanding of people and organizational needs. Virtual management is the first thing to explore.”
From changes brought about by the digital, to our working environment through to addiction and privacy, the design discipline of the CSM Degree Show questioned digital technologies and our increasingly connected culture as much as the Fine Art graduating students in Degree Show One. Where questions and explorations made up most of Degree Show One, solutions to problems were proposed in Degree Show Two, be it through products, applications, or management.
The themes and problems highlighted in this post are in no way exhaustive of the wealth of solutions to digital problems presented in the show. Indeed, some students transported themselves to the future and exhibited prospective projects, such as Daniela Toledo (MA Textile Future) with Imminent Body, a proposition that artificial intelligence will be embedded in materials in the future.
“This project examines the notion of artificial intelligence within the context of future materials. If materials are changing and moving towards a state of intelligence, then there is the potential to discover new and unexplored ways of harnessing consciousness in materials and exploring this idea in the context of the future materiality.
This is a speculative design project that critically seeks to question the ability to accept a new form of intelligence and consider the possibility that textile workers of the future will be able to ‘program’ fabric for manufacture. Different materials will require different consideration and this opens a series of ethical implications in prospective scenarios linked to dealing with the future behaviour of materials.”
Technologies and the digital realm seem to have no limits. For the designers of today, this provides endless possibilities for innovation, but also poses sets of ethical and social questions with which CSM’s graduating students are engaging.
– MA Communication Design
– MA Innovation Management
– MA Textile Future
– MA Industrial Design
– BA Product Design
– BA Graphic design
– Degree Show One – part 1
– Degree Show One – part 2
– The Face of Code on Digital Present
– Related to the Database